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The
South China Sea is a huge sea of 1.4 million square miles, bordered by nations
that contain approximately 2 billion people. About a third of the world’s
shipping goes through its waters, which also provide vast amounts of food and
whose seabed is rich in oil and gas. Scattered through the sea are small land
features—often tiny, often underwater during high tide. These fall into two
main groupings, the Paracel Islands in the northern part of the sea, and the
Spratly Islands in the southern part.    

China,
Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia all claim sovereignty
over some of these land features and waters, and the claims conflict. China,
through its “nine-dash line” map and many statements, has claimed at the very
least sovereignty over all the islands and rocks in the South China Sea and
rights over the adjacent waters. The other five stakeholders have conflicting
claims over land features that in turn produce numerous additional overlapping
and conflicting claims over adjacent waters and how they are used. Neither the
vastness of the sea nor the smallness of the disputed land specks has prevented
an escalation in intensity in recent years. Concerns about security and
resources have driven much of the tension, and rival nationalisms in
stakeholder countries breathe fire on the waters.    

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The
South China Sea is one of the most important trade routes in the world. At
least $5 trillion of
commercial goods pass through the area each year.The area is also thought to
have a significant amount of oil and gas reserves. The U.S. Department of
Energy estimates that there are 11
billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proven and
probable reserves.

 

Past International Action

The most serious trouble in recent
decades has flared between Vietnam and China, and there have also been
stand-offs between the Philippines and China..In early 2012, China and the
Philippines engaged in a lengthy maritime stand-off, accusing each other of
intrusions in the Scarborough Shoal.Unverified claims that the Chinese navy
sabotaged two Vietnamese exploration operations in late 2012 led to large anti-China protests on Vietnam’s streets.In January 2013, Manila said it
was taking China to a UN tribunal under the auspices of the UN Convention on
the Laws of the Sea, to challenge its claims.In May 2014, the introduction by
China of a drilling rig into waters near the Paracel Islands led to multiple
collisions between Vietnamese and Chinese ships.

China prefers bilateral negotiations
with the other parties. But many of its neighbours argue that China’s relative
size and clout give it an unfair advantage.Some countries have argued that
China should negotiate with Asean (the Association of South East Asian
Nations), a 10-member regional grouping that consists of Thailand, Indonesia,
Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar and
Cambodia.However, China is opposed to this, while Asean is also divided over
how to resolve the dispute.

China, Vietnam, the
Philippines and Malaysia have all ratified the treaty. The U.S. has not,
as Republican senators blocked the
ratification, arguing
the treaty infringed upon U.S. sovereignty in its maritime
operations.China asserts the right to monitor foreign navy and troop activities within its exclusive
economic zones. The U.S. rejects this interpretation, saying that all countries
have the freedom to navigatethe seas and airspace around a country’s region

COUNTRY
POLICY

 In
light of escalating tensions in the maritime areas off the Chinese coast,
German foreign policy experts are analyzing the divers interests at stake and
possibilities for intervention. At the heart of the conflicts, particularly in
the East China Sea, are military options, according to a German think tank.
China, in the dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, is concentrating on its
defense capability against potential aggressors. According to the naval
publication “MarineForum,” maritime trade routes through the South
China Sea are of major interest. This is where China, for example, is
transiting 80 percent of its oil and liquid gas imports. This is why the
Spratly islands – apart from their own oil deposits – are of significant
strategic importance. To the question of how the EU would react should a war
start in East Asia – provoked, for example, by a dispute over any of the groups
of islands – an associate of the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel
University (ISPK) answered that, unlike London and Paris, Berlin would
currently not have the capability to intervene, which is why Germany should
seek to establish a naval base in the Indian Ocean.

German always has been involed in this topic .German
Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed concern on  (Oct 29,2015) about a
territorial dispute between the Chinese and US navies in the South China Sea,
and suggested China go to international courts to resolve the row.Whereas, according the “Washington
Post,” the United States should increase its naval presence against
Beijing in the South China Seas, German foreign policy experts are reflecting
on what could happen, if there should be war in East Asia – for example over
the disputed island groups. According to Felix Seidler, an associate of the
Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University (ISPK), this is “a very
unpleasant, but not an unthinkable scenario.” In such a case, Great
Britain would be operational – its fleet regularly operates in the Indian Ocean
and has recently proven that it can intervene in Southeast Asia, when it
dispatched warships to the Philippines on a disaster relief mission. France
maintains naval bases in all three oceans – some in its oversees territories –
and therefore, even if currently weakened, it too, in principle, is
operational. The German Navy, on the other hand, lacks these capabilities.

   What is then the
solution for this daunting South China Sea dispute?

It is
important first of all to recognize the fact that the South China Sea conflict
is very much asymmetric, and therefore cannot be dealt with in a symmetric way.
China is indisputably a superpower in the region and the Philippines, Vietnam,
and other claimants are just smaller states. Consequently, it is impossible to
expect a fair solution that treats every participant equally. Everything should
be proportionate. The ASEAN countries have to learn how to work with the
regional hegemon, China, in a proportionately mutual beneficial way. Quoting
international law or forcing China to agree with ASEAN’s proposal for a Code of
Conduct is indeed unfair to this superpower. The realist school of thought
would be more honest and support China’s higher position in every negotiation.

The only
thing that ASEAN nations can do, should they really want to stand together
against China, is to first focus on developing the individual countries’
economies and together gradually try to reduce their dependence on Chinese
products, markets, and aid. ASEAN should reduce competition among its members,
increase internal aid programs, and exchange technology and experiences. Only
when each and every ASEAN nation is strong enough and really enjoys cooperation
within the organization, can a common approach finally be considered. But in
the age of a prosperous ASEAN, there would no longer be a need to raise this
sensitive issue against China. Seeing ASEAN growing stronger economically will
entice China to behave moderately — to cooperate rather than take the offensive
in the South China Sea. This is the only peaceful solution to the conflict.